Microbiome-on-a-chip: future in vitro simulation systems

Graphic illustration of a computer chip and intestinal tract.

What if we had a system mirroring the cross-talk between microbes and complex ‘super-organisms’ like humans or animals? Understanding the relationships between hosts and commensal bacteria might help fighting gut flora associated chronic diseases such as diabetes type II, Morbus Crohn, Colitis Ulcerosa. By that, the necessity for multifaceted medication could be cut and animal trials reduced. Establishing unique microbiome-databases, personal tests are thinkable and the creation of individual ‘avatars’ possible. Furthermore, animal-specific chips could mimic diverse livestock groups. The future not only lies, but also fits in our hand with a microbiome-on-a-chip lab device.

Symbiotic super-organisms such as humans and other mammals have a shared inheritance with commensal microorganisms since approximately 50,000 years. This means that gut indigenous microbes are closely related to their host in such a way that the intestinal homeostasis and therefore the host’s health is depending on these bacteria. Gastrointestinal simulation platforms are model systems representing the digestive tract of e.g. monogastric mammals to study the solubility, stability, and release profile of drugs, specific formulations or the nutritioning effect of functional food (pre-/pro-/synbiotics), and animal feed and their impact on the gut microbiome analysed by state-of-the-art omic-analyses.

Potential community shifts caused by a certain specimen are revealed by the comparison of microbial fingerprints before and after the treatment based on Next Generation Sequencing, proteomics, metabolomics and transcriptomics, providing and even forecasting (modelling) information about the digestion performance and individual metabolism dynamics by unravelling black-boxed challenges: Who is still there? What and how is a certain substance metabolized? Which treatment is needed to supplement and re-establish a functional flora?

acib is currently creating a bilateral information network – a ‘think tank’, open for input from scientific and industrial partners to develop a simulation system that meets user’s demands at the state-of-the-art level. Aimed joint-infrastructure funding and a cloud solution-based knowledge exchange combine all efforts to realize the system’s highest level of complexity and implementation range.

Picture credits: acib